Legal & Regulatory

Energy Industries Look Forward to Regulatory Relief under Trump

Heads of some of the nation’s energy trade groups are looking forward to a rollback of regulations under the Trump administration, they said January 31 during a panel discussion at the United States Energy Association’s annual State of the Energy Industry Forum.

President and CEO of the National Mining Association, Hal Quinn, perhaps the most relieved on the panel, anticipates that President Donald Trump and the new Congress will be much friendlier to the coal industry. “We expect to see some of the policy blades swung at coal over the last eight years unwound, allowing us to actually compete in a free market, something we really haven’t been able to do for at least the last eight years.”

The coal industry complained of a “war on coal” throughout the eight years of Barack Obama’s administration, citing actions such as the drafting of the Clean Power Plan carbon emissions standards for coal-fired power plants, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

Many of the most onerous of these actions are expected to be overturned sooner or later, either through Congressional action or action within the executive branch, according to Quinn.

The Clean Power Plan is the focus of a massive, ongoing, legal battle pitting 27 states and numerous utilities, energy generators, and trade organizations against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Because of this legal battle, and the fact that the rule has long been final, it remains uncertain how the Trump administration will go about dismantling it. “The Clean Power Plan, that’s going to take a while but this administration, President Trump, has indicated he wants to take a very close look at that,” Quinn said. “The question is how they deal with the court.”

The coal leasing moratorium, which Quinn stated “was imposed in the last years of the administration for no apparent reason other than to embrace [the] keep it in the ground [movement],” will likely be overturned as soon as Trump’s pick for secretary of the interior, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), is confirmed.

The Interior Department announced early last year it would issue no new coal leases on federal lands while completing a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) of the U.S. coal leasing program. The review is intended to determine if the program is properly structured to provide a fair return to taxpayers, reflects its impacts on the environment, and will continue to help meet the nation’s energy needs.

Zinke, who’s nomination moved through committee by a vote of 16–6 on January 31, has been a vocal opponent of the coal leasing moratorium and pledged to review the action during his confirmation hearing.

Quinn wasn’t the only one on the panel looking forward to seeing what the Trump administration has to offer. Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, hopes that the administration will roll back the EPA’s regulations on methane emissions from the oil and gas sectors. “We’ve had this very significant increase in natural gas production,” Gerard said. “At the same time, our methane emissions, regardless of natural gas, have gone down 15 percent in real terms. So, we’ve dramatically increased the production, and we’re decreasing methane emissions at the same time, yet, the EPA chooses to regulate methane emissions. Why? Good question.”

According to Gerard, complying with the EPA’s methane regulations for oil and gas would add $800 million in annual costs to the industries.

As is the case in the early days of any change in administration, much remains uncertain, but Quinn says he’s feeling more secure than he has in a long time. “My personal standpoint? I’m sleeping a lot better,” he said.

Abby L. Harvey is a POWER reporter.

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